11 Pages


ByAxel van den Berg

Marxism is inherently incapable of taking the so-called superstructure seriously. It must either relegate such things as politics, culture and consciousness to mere "epiphenomena" of the economic "base" or else lose its own coherence by importing the "bourgeois" concepts needed to deal with them in a more satisfactory manner. For a long time, this has been the smug conventional wisdom among non-Marxists. The loosening of Moscow's iron grip in the 1950s and the resurgence of radical politics in the 1960s have produced an extraordinary revival of what is now known as "Western Marxism". American Marxists and radicals still use the complacent "pluralism" of the 1950s as a convenient straw man. But this amounts to a pretty futile exercise not only because that kind of pluralism never did become the dominant non-Marxist theory outside the United States, but even more because not much could be learned from the comparison.